Staying Safe Online

Well, friends, I’m back after a week-long, crazy hiatus.  It’s good to be back, and I’m ready to jump back into some of those pressing security and safety questions.  So, without further ado, here we go.

In the news recently, there seems to be an increasing number of articles dealing with safely using social media.  What makes these articles so compelling is that they don’t deal with this question in the “conventional” way.  That is, they don’t tell you how to avoid losing your identity, suffering as a victim of online harassment, etc.  Instead, these articles deal with problems that arise from a blending of the online world and the real world; and that is fascinating.

For too long, we’ve operated under the assumption that it’s fine to live in a separate world online than you do in the real world; or at least, that the dangers of online usage are primarily online dangers.  But, recent trends don’t bear that out.  For the past couple of years, thieves, intruders, rapists, and others have been using social media to perpetuate physical crimes in the real world.

For example, a blog post in the New York Times recently revealed a Nashua, NH based crime ring which used Facebook as its central tool.  Basically, three men would use Facebook to determine when someone was going on vacation.  This wasn’t difficult, since many of the victims posted a status update stating that they were going on vacation.  Using other online information, it was not difficult to ascertain where the intended victim lived.  From there, it was easy.

Almost a year ago, another couple happened to post an update that they were going out to a concert.  When they returned, their home had been burglarized.  The perpetrator was one of their “friends” on Facebook.

Now, why is all of this important?  It’s important because too many people live as if what happens in their online world has no bearing on their real life.  This simply isn’t true.  Maybe it was for a time (I don’t think it ever was, personally), but it isn’t anymore.  It’s time for people to being acting seriously online, and realizing that their social media actions can have devastating real-life consequences.

For today, we’ll leave it at that.  Hopefully, you have something to think about.  Tomorrow we’ll discuss what practical steps you can take to act in a smart, and measured manner while online.

Thanks.  If you have any stories of your own, please include them in the comments.

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